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Pre-filed bill offers harsher penalties for suspects on bond who commit crimes

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COLUMBIA, SC (WIS) -

South Carolina has ranked in the top five of the most violent states in the nation, according to a study by 24/7 Wall Street.

Several South Carolina lawmakers have pre-filed legislation that takes aim at the problem of repeat offenders in the court system.

One freshman senator is calling for harsher penalties for those suspects who commit a serious crimes while out of jail on bond.

It was a violent summer in the Palmetto State, from a young mother murdered inside a Columbia bakery, to the mass-murder of five innocent people in the Upstate.

"These are stories we hear on the news, but these are problems for everyday folks and everyday communities," said senator Thomas McElveen.

But these cases have a common link, according to McElveen. All the suspects involved were out on bond when the crimes occurred. And he says it's a common problem across the state.

"It comes from people who drop out of school, have drug problems or are connected with gangs," said 3rd Judicial Circuit Solicitor Ernest Finney.

McElveen's solution is to give judges the option of adding significant time to an offenders sentence.

"If you're out on bond, which you have a right to be out on bond while you're awaiting trial, if you continue to commit violent offenses and you continue to get convicted, then you're looking at serious time," said McElveen.

Solicitors say in some rural counties suspects can be out on bond for months while awaiting trial, and the prospect of a harsher penalty for bad behavior could help reduce violent crime.

"It would give the solicitors office and the judge to evaluate this person based on more information than just the single case that brought them to court that day," said Finney. "it would give the courts the authority to sentence more harshly and treat that person as a more dangerous individual."

The bill will likely head to the Senate Judiciary Committee in 2014. McElveen hopes it will get a special subcommittee hearing and eventually be debated on the floor.

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